Rare flashes of wit and energy, mostly drowned out by a sea of self-indulgent ramblings.

Humorist Ames (Wake Up, Sir!, 2004, etc.) presents previously published essays detailing the various ways in which he's stumbled, failed, disappointed himself and others and, occasionally, triumphed.

Ames seems to forever be searching for new ways to reveal his foibles to the reading public; for this author, there is no topic too intimate, sexual or scatological to share. But his latest collection lacks verve, drive and focus. Mostly, it feels lazy, or in need of a strong editor. Here, Ames rambles through personal anecdotes, discussing, among other things, a depressing interaction with a French prostitute, his irritable bowel syndrome, the details of a sex show in Amsterdam and a funny but still melancholy encounter with a suburban dominatrix, made more poignant by the fact that Ames had told his mother and child that he'd be at the library, working (the essay is made correspondingly less poignant by the maudlin way Ames beats his breast over his iniquities). Picking cysts, scratching his crotch, pondering the cause of his perplexingly itchy posterior, Ames invites readers along for all of it. He also frequently discusses his penis, in essays such as “Oh, Pardon my Hard-On,” “My Wiener Is Damaged!” and “How I Almost Committed Suicide Because of a Wart.” There are a couple of strong pieces—the titular essay is a warm reminiscence of visiting a beloved elderly aunt, and “Called Myself El Cid” is a lively account of Ames's days on the Princeton fencing team. In general, however, the author discusses his various shortcomings in a tone exuding regret, longing, gnawing professional envy and a self-absorption that allows him to publish work that is both exhibitionist and deeply self-critical.

Rare flashes of wit and energy, mostly drowned out by a sea of self-indulgent ramblings.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-8021-7017-X

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Black Cat/Grove

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2005



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

Close Quickview